I am 30, blissfully married, have a beautiful daughter that enters nursery next week, and am actively attending church. I have, however, finally admitted that I am racked with uncertainty and have been going through life as just another cog in the Mormon machine. I was raised in the church, so I've gotten really good at knowing the "right" answers, but I'm finding more and more often that they aren't MY answers, at least not completely. I feel like rather than spending the last 30 years trying to find God and develop a personal relationship, I've been spending the last 30 years just trying not to step out of line. That's an over-generalization, but that's the gist.
The veins of uncertainty I'm dealing with run all the way to the core of my belief system. I still have very concrete opinions about the importance of focusing our lives around kindness, civility, gratitude, goodness, and love, and the church has played a big role in helping me establish that moral compass over the years. What I can no longer do, however, is buy into knowledge claims. I cannot claim to know that there's a God, or that I know anything about His/Her nature. I don't know what this life is or what happens when it's all over. I mean, is this life really just some big social experiment in which we're all being tested to see if we'll behave ourselves while Mommy and Daddy aren't around...except we all have amnesia so we don't remember Mommy and Daddy? If this really is the case, I want to know why. But how do I do that? With the Spirit? I have experienced peaceful, comforting feelings all my life that a true believer would attribute to the Spirit of God, but those same feelings are often discounted as just emotions by the non-believer. So who's right? I very much hope that there is more to this life than what we physically observe, and I actually still very much fall into the camp of the theist (meaning that I think there is a lot more to this existence than meets the eye), I just don't claim to know one way or the other. SamIam recently posted a link to an article that describes many aspects of my situation very well. Here it is again: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... -agnostic/
I struggle with the statement I hear repeatedly (especially on the first Sunday of the month) that members "know the church is true." What does this statement even mean? It could mean any number of things. Does it mean that they believe that everything that's been taught by our current and past leaders is infallible? Such a person would just be begging to be misled. I do not believe every doctrine that has ever been taught by the church, and I'm far from believing the church is currently right about everything. Also, are they implying that every other church is false? If so, I believe that to be grossly misguided. D&C 10:67 states:
I can almost guarantee you that there are millions of people alive today to whom the words of this verse would surely apply, and they are NOT members of the "true" church. My hope is that most of the people who claim to "know the church is true" simply mean that they find great guidance from various LDS teachings and enjoy the fellowship of others who share their beliefs. I recently listened to a series of talks given by a Franciscan priest named Richard Rohr called True Self, False Self (which I got for free by signing up for Amazon's Audible.com). This non-member shared with me some of the most prophetic insights I have ever heard, and when I say ever, I include 30 years of exposure to the teachings of ancient and modern prophets and apostles. In his talks, Rohr mentions the need to have our own mystical experiences, and to feel free enough to find God in our own way...to break free of the tribalism and the apparent need to feel like we fit in with a particular group.Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
At times, I find the church to be almost stiflingly dogmatic. I find it ironic that a church that was founded on such a brilliant eruption of mystical revelation appears to me to be so dormant now. This volcanic analogy is something that I adopted from a 1989 article by a monk named David Steindl-Rast about The Mystical Core of Organized Religion. Here's the link: http://csp.org/experience/docs/steindl-mystical.html The idea is that religions are founded based on a desire to share a powerful mystical experience with others. It explains how, in an attempt to interpret this mystical experience, our minds turn truth, goodness and beauty into doctrine, ethics and ritual (the foundations of a religion). But over time, doctrine, ethics and ritual crystallize into colder dogmatism, legalism, and ritualism. As we get farther removed from the original mystical experience, layer upon layer of interpretations stifle the original brilliance, and that religion needs to be renewed. When I first read this it struck me how PERFECTLY this applied to the LDS church and what I was experiencing. It helped me realize that I needed to figure this stuff out for myself...that if God was out there I needed to find Him/Her.
Having said all of this, I can still consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and I very much remain a part of the LDS church. I have looked into many other churches, and have found nothing yet that would replace what I already have. In fact, I find more and more that our core beliefs about how to behave toward others are the same as those of most of our fellow theists, regardless of religious affiliation. I also feel like others often have a valuable, differing perspective that I can learn a lot from. One of the groups I can not currently side with, however, is the atheist, and this is for two reasons. 1) They have no more evidence of the true origins of our existence than the theists. If the universe sprang into existence with a bang, who pulled the trigger? 2) I find the atheist's view of the afterlife to be a bit too depressing.
So, here I am. I know that is an awful lot of information I just spewed out , but I wanted to be somewhat thorough. Oh, and my wife is completely in the loop. She was startled at first, but has been wonderfully supportive, probably because I've been working openly and honestly with my Bishop and a member of my stake presidency about my feelings, and I really have been actively searching for answers. Now I just hope I can find some.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to being a part of the discussions!